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St Valentine’s Day

Since the Middle Ages, St Valentine’s Day is the traditional date when the birds start to pair up and make nests. This is because there is a ‘Fools Spring’ in the middle of the month when the temperature rises for a few days. Birds start to nest and the Summer migrants – oystercatchers, snipe and plover begin to move into the uplands from where they have wintered on the coast.

An Oystercatcher in Harwich – Copyright Peter Pearson

Plum Pudding Riots in Canterbury

‘O Yea, O Yea, O Yea,

By order of the Mayor and Jurats, This is to give notice that the ordinance of the most honourable Parliament concerning superstitious observances is to be strictly enforced and whereas Saturday next is the 25th day of December and all persons whatsoever in the City of Canterbury are to take heed and remember that Christmas days and all other superstitious festivals are utterly abolished, wherefore all minister and churchwardens and others are warned that there will be no prayers or sermons in the church on the said 25th December, and whosoever shall hang at any door rosemary, holly or bays, or other superstitious herb shall be liable to the penalties decreed by the ordinance of last year, and whosoever shall make or cause to be made, either plum pottage or nativity pies, is hereby warned that it is contrary to the said ordinance. This is also to give notice that the usual weekly market will be held in the city on Saturday 25th December and all persons are required to open their shops on the said day, by order of his worship Master Mayor William Bridges’

In the seventeenth century, the Puritan government in England believed Christmas to be a Pagan Festival as well as an excuse for drunkeness and other forms of excess. Shops were ordered to open and churches locked to prevent them holding a service.

In Canterbury, Kent on Christmas Day 1647, the Mayor, Sheriff, Town Clerk, Constable and a guard of Pikemen went around the city. A riot broke out when the Mayor tried to encourage the shops to stay open, whilst the Royalists tried to force them to shut. Games of street football broke out from one end of town to the other with balls being kicked through the windows of puritan houses.

After Boxing Day, more riots broke out with the prison and Town Hall being taken over along with a supply of arms and powder. The Mayor had to hide and his house was ransacked along with the homes of many Puritans. Beacons were lit and the bells of Canterbury Cathedral were rung to summon more people into the City. The familiar watchword became ‘For God, King Charles and Kent’.

The riots continued until early January 1648, when 3000 Roundhead troops came to Canterbury. The City gates were taken off and breaches made in the City walls. Many people were arrested and imprisoned in Leeds Castle.

Copyright N Chadwick

St James’s Day – 25th July

James was the first Apostle to be martyred in Jerusalem in AD44. His only crime was to preach in Samaria, Judea and Spain and for this he was stabbed to death by Herod Agrippa.

His relics were then taken to Compostela in Spain, which went on to become a famous pilgrim destination during the Middle Ages.

There are many places today where you can see the symbol for St James – a scallop shell.

The date also became important in Kent as it was the day on which the clergy traditionally blessed the apple orchards.

25th July is also the last day of the close season for oysters, which were eaten in huge quantities by the Romans.

The famous Whitstable Oyster Festival is held on the weekend closest to St James’s Day and each year the oysters are blessed as a gift from the sea.

The Friars at Aylesford – still a place of pilgrimage today for many of the Roman Catholic faith thanks to the Carmelite community who live there